Pregnancy produces many physical changes. Aside from weight and body shape, other alterations in your body chemistry and function take place. The heart works harder, your temperature registers slightly higher, body secretions increase, joints and ligaments are more flexible and hormones are altered.
Mood changes are common, resulting from a combination of hormonal changes and greater fatigue, as well as normal anxiety over body image, sexuality, finances, marriage roles and impending parenthood.
The following is a list of the most common discomforts of pregnancy and some guidelines for coping with them.
Nausea and Vomiting
- Eat small frequent meals. Going too long without eating during pregnancy can cause nausea or make it worse. If you experience continuous nausea, eat every one to two hours.
- Avoid greasy, high-fat foods. They are more difficult to digest.
- Consume dry starch foods, such as crackers, toast or cereal, in the morning before you get out of bed. Also, it helps if you stay in bed for 20 minutes or so after eating and get up slowly from the bed for a sudden change of position can aggravate nausea.
- Drinking carbonated beverages as well as peppermint, spearmint and chamomile teas may help.
- Eat plenty of carbohydrate-rich foods such as cereal, fruit, bread and rice. They are easy to digest and provide energy.
- Take prenatal vitamins only as directed. If they cause stomach upset, ask your practitioner if you can delay taking them for a few weeks.
- Some foods, such as milk or tea, that are soothing to one woman may be upsetting to another. However, most women find cold foods and beverages easier to tolerate than hot ones.
- Eat a high-protein snack before bed to stabilize blood sugar.
- Limit your consumption of coffee. It stimulates acid secretion, which can make the nausea worse.
- Consume liquids separately from meals, waiting about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Wear sea sickness wrist bands. These can be found at most pharmacies.
- Increase the amount of fiber in your diet, eating foods high in fiber such as fruits, raw vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and dried fruits. Choose a breakfast cereal that has at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. These foods help soften the stool and promote natural bowel activity.
- Drink a lot of fluids.
- Exercise, even walking, will help relieve constipation.
- Eat prunes or figs, or drink prune juice. These fruits contain a natural laxative.
- Avoid laxatives. If the problem is not resolved with the above suggestions, let your health care practitioner know. Stool softeners that are safe during pregnancy can be prescribed.
- Iron supplements can aggravate constipation — the prescription for iron can be adjusted if it becomes a problem.
- To help avoid hemorrhoids, prevent constipation by maintaining a diet that is high in fluids and fiber.
- Witch hazel or Tucks pads can be applied to the hemorrhoid area to relieve symptoms.
- Avoid over-the-counter laxatives. If hard stools are aggravating hemorrhoids, stool softeners can be used, but first consult your practitioner for specific suggestions.
This is very common during the first trimester. Get as much sleep or rest as you can — even short naps will help. Your energy level will pick up after the first three months. However, fatigue and insomnia tend to recur in the last months of pregnancy. A warm bath, massage or hot drink before bed often helps you relax and get ready to sleep.
Breast tenderness is most pronounced during the first three months. The breasts enlarge in size and can be quite tender. Wearing a good support bra may help you feel more comfortable.
Frequent urination is another pregnancy symptom that is most pronounced during the first trimester as well as the end of pregnancy. Do not restrict fluid intake in an effort to decrease the frequency of urination. As long as you do not experience burning or pain with urination, increased frequency is normal and will go away with time.
Cramps in your calf or thigh occur most frequently at night. One remedy may be to increase your intake of calcium. Ask your provider about a calcium supplement. While in bed, stretch with your heels pointed, not your toes. This will help relieve a cramp.
- Try eating smaller but more frequent meals.
- Avoid highly seasoned, rich and fatty foods.
- Do not lie down flat after eating. If you must lie down, elevate your head and shoulders with pillows.
- Carbonated beverages and milk often can help alleviate heartburn.
- Certain antacids are not recommended during pregnancy. Check with your health care provider before using over-the-counter antacid preparations.
Lower back pain is common during pregnancy. It is caused by the shift in posture necessitated by carrying extra weight in front.
- Try not to stand in one position for too long.
- An exercise called the pelvic rock will help alleviate back pain and strengthen the lower back muscles that experience the most stress.
- Elevating the feet onto a stool while sitting will help.
Dizziness or lightheadedness can be caused by low blood sugar or a sudden change of position. To help avoid this feeling:
- Move slowly when getting up from a sitting or lying position.
- Eat well and frequently. Women who are prone to low blood sugar should carry snacks at all times. Juices and fruit are particularly good choices.
Swelling of the Hands and Feet
Slight swelling of the hands and feet are common in the later stages of pregnancy. Adequate fluid intake is always important. Improve the circulation in your legs and feet by elevating them as often as possible. Lie on a bed or floor and raise your legs up on the wall keeping your knees bent. If you are wearing elastic hose, drain your legs this way before putting them on.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Anemia and Pregnancy
During the last half of pregnancy, your body makes more red blood cells which can cause Anemia. Learn more about causes and prevention here.
Domestic Violence and Pregnancy
Domestic violence is the most common health problem among women during pregnancy. It greatly threatens both the mother's and baby's health. Learn more here.
Eating Right Before and During Pregnancy
It is important to get the nutrients you need both before getting pregnant and during your pregnancy. Find more nutrition information including macros here.
Exercise During Pregnancy
Most women can, and should, engage in moderate exercise during pregnancy. Exercise can help you stay in shape and prepare your body for labor and delivery
FAQ: Prenatal Tests
Commonly asked questions regarding Prenatal Tests including, types available, positive screenings, diagnostic testing, health insurance coverage, and more.
HIV and Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, we recommend you be tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) even if you do not think you are at risk. Learn more here.
Recognizing Premature Labor
Premature labor occurs between the 20th and 37th week of pregnancy, when uterine contractions cause the cervix to open earlier than normal. Learn more.
Sex During Pregnancy
The pregnancy may alter how a woman and her partner feel about making love, and differences in sexual need may arise. Learn more here.
Substance Use During Pregnancy
While pregnant, it is best to eat well, stay healthy and avoid ingesting anything that might be harmful to the mother's or baby's health. Learn more.
The Circumcision Decision
If you give birth to a boy, you will be asked if you'd like him circumcised. This is a matter to be considered carefully before the baby is born. Learn more.
Obstetrics & Gynecology at Mission Bay – Owens Street
1500 Owens St., Suite 380
San Francisco, CA 94158
Obstetrics & Gynecology at Mount Zion
2356 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94143
Obstetrics, Gynecology & Perinatal Specialties at Mission Bay – Fourth Street
Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building
1825 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Great Expectations Pregnancy Classes
Get ready for the baby! Choose from a variety of classes that prepare moms and partners for pregnancy, birth, baby care, breastfeeding and parenting.
Lactation Consultant Support
Get support for all your breastfeeding needs. Troubleshoot with a lactation consultant, find equipment and supplies, join a support group and more.
Women's Health Resource Center
Access a range of UCSF women's health resources, such as classes, support groups, a lending library and services focused on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.